Denise Ferreira da Silva & Arjuna Neuman. Ancestral Clouds Ancestral Claims
Denise Ferreira da Silva & Arjuna Neuman, Ancestral Clouds Ancestral Claims, 2023, film still, courtesy the artists
Curator: Andrea Popelka
Ancestral Clouds Ancestral Claims is Arjuna Neuman and Denise Ferreira da Silva’s ﬁrst solo exhibition in Austria. It is centered around the presentation of a new work, coproduced by Kunsthalle Wien. The eponymous film is the latest part of a series called Elemental Cinema; each film in this series is dedicated to one of the four elements. In it, the artists have developed an approach that takes matter, material, and the elemental as its starting point – aspects which continue to be neglected and suppressed by the globally dominant order of thinking and being.
Ferreira da Silva and Neuman’s works undermine patterns of thinking about and relating to the Earth that have been shaped by European colonial modernity. They show that categories and distinctions that seem self-evident to us underlie a profoundly unequal, racist world. Ancestral Clouds Ancestral Claims turns the spotlight on the persistence, though in altered form, of this modern relation to the Earth in the history of neoliberalism and one of its deﬁning early episodes: Chile under the Pinochet regime.
The film was shot in the Chilean Atacama Desert, home to some of the world’s largest mines. The elevated, extremely dry terrain and clear air of the desert preserve history. Today you can ﬁnd prehistoric stone drawings there, but also that labor camps from colonial times which were later reactivated during Pinochet’s dictatorship and used to exploit opponents of the regime. While telescopes are used to observe the sky in this place with the clearest and driest air on the planet, these stories of violence stay hidden in plain sight.
In Ancestral Clouds Ancestral Claims, the wind – air is the classical element taken up in this part of the series – travels from the Sahara to the Amazon and along the Pacific coast. Like the ﬁlm’s off-screen voices, the composition of material reality tells stories of migration and displacement, but also of another world.
The extensive public program includes workshops, performances, open study sessions, film screenings, and discursive formats. In cooperation with the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna, Tanzquartier Wien, the University of Applied Arts Vienna, and other partner institutions.